There are many moments that can change your life. Edges that help define who you are and the direction you’ll take in life. Whether you let those moments change you for the better or worse depends on the frame of mind you have. For Billy Gallegos, who’s journey has taken him through the US Marines, the Denver police department, and the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force, that edge came in November of 1979. While Gallegos was a US Marine working at the US Embassy, in Iran he was among those captured and held prisoner by members of the Iranian Revolution for 444 days. That experience led to his future work, lifelong friendships, and more. Now retired, Gallegos shares his story with military groups and others that want to learn about his experience. He will be joining the International Association of Milk Control Agencies (IAMCA) at the annual meeting in Golden, CO on August 13th, at 8:45 AM.
“Being held in captivity was a stressful situation, said Gallegos. “We weren’t treated well. There was physical and psychological torture. But a lot of what I saw in captivity was the humor in the situation. I was held with Rocky Sickmann, a fellow marine, and Jerry Plotkin, an unlucky civilian that the revolutionaries thought was a Mossad agent. And those two guys, even though we were going through terrible times, we always saw the humor and joked around and pulled jokes on our guards… All the funny things in life that we could think of, we just tried to keep holding on to those good times through the whole thing.” Afterwards, the three stayed in touch, and remained good friends. day. “We’re family,” said Gallegos. “Rocky’s kids call me Uncle. And it was that way with Jerry too until he passed away around 1990.”
When Gallegos was released from the Iranians, he went home to Colorado and figured out what he wanted to do going forward. “I did a lot of things when I got back – fishing, hiking, mountain climbing, etc. I also started to study everything I could about terrorism… I always wanted to become a policeman, but didn’t really think about it until after my captivity. I gained a lot of insight surviving something like that. A lot of people go into a shell, and don’t want to come out. I saw freedom as a great thing, and I did everything that I ever wanted to do after being released January 20th, 1981.” His studies on terrorism eventually led to Gallegos being invited to join the FBI Joint Task Force in 2005, where he met Peter Hunkar, who is currently the Executive Director of the Colorado Milk Board and President of the IAMCA.
This is the first time that Gallegos has spoken at the IAMCA Annual Meeting. “I’m absolutely looking forward to the conference. I didn’t know about the IAMCA before Peter called me and asked me to come. I want to go to a couple of the classes and talk to people and learn more about what they do.”